West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin announced the creation of a Mine and Industrial Accident Safety Hotline/TipLine for people to report potentially harmful conditions at mines and industrial sites across the state. The move is part of the state’s response to the growing concerns about mine safety after the deadly collapse at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virgina in April.
The tip line will be open 24 hours a day/7 days a week and will be managed by the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management call center. Callers may choose to remain anonymous.
“I want all miners and workers from any other industry in West Virginia to feel empowered to report problems in the workplace without fear of retribution,” said Gov. Manchin. “This hotline will hopefully encourage more workers to become involved in strengthening safety procedures from the front lines.”
The Governor chose the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management call center in order to ensure that an independent agency was taking the calls and then routing them to the appropriate regulatory or law enforcement body. Regulators or law enforcement who get a call from the call center will also be required to report back on how each issue has been addressed. The tip line operators are also trained to handle situations where emergency response may be involved.
The state is also looking at creating a special group of inspectors to police mines with repeat safety violations, a measure outlining such a group is expected to come before the state legislature in a special session this week. Under the new plan, the state Secretary of Commerce would manage four special enforcement and accident prevention teams that would target troubled mines.
Investigations into the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine continue at both the state and federal levels, investigators have been unable to get back into the mine as conditions inside remain gaseous and unsafe.
The Obama administration has pushed for increased inspections and safety measures as part of the federal response to the explosion. A sweeping inspection from federal regulators last month resulted in MSHA issuing 1,339 citations and 109 withdrawal orders which require miners to leave unsafe mines. All told, the citations and orders were given to 57 mines across 10 states, some with repeat offenses and troubled safety records.
The Mine and Industrial Accident Safety Hotline/Tip Line can now be accessed at 1-866-808-0875 any time of day or night.